Coeliac disease is something that we hear a lot about, but what is it and should I be worried?
Coeliac disease is a serious medical illness that affects 1 in 70 Australians, however 80% who are affected remain undiagnosed.
Coeliac disease mainly affects parts of the small bowel. It happens when the gut reacts to gluten which is present in foods made from wheat, barley and rye.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms include tummy ache, tiredness and weight loss. You may find that the symptoms disappear if you do not eat foods containing gluten.
How can I test for Coeliac disease?
Your doctor may organise a blood test, however you will need to have eaten a diet containing gluten for at least 6 weeks before the test is performed. Your doctor may also wish to refer you to a specialist for more specific investigations.
Should I be worried if I’m diagnosed with Coeliac disease?
The main treatment is to avoid any food that contains gluten for the rest of your life. Sometimes, advice from a dietician may be helpful.
People who suffer from Coeliac disease have an increased risk of developing thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), developing other immune-related diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes or thyroid problems. There is also an increased risk of developing lymphoma, a type of cancer of the gut later in life, however this is very rare.
It is really important to avoid any foods that contain gluten as you will be free of symptoms and can expect a normal healthy lifespan. Eating a gluten free diet also reduces the risk of developing lymphoma.
I don’t have Coeliac disease but I’ve heard of the gluten free diet, is this good for me?
There are lots of diet trends that emerge everyday. Recently people have wondered if having a gluten free diet will help with the prevention of heart disease, however, a large study conducted in the USA involving researchers from Harvard has shown that gluten does not appear to increase the risk of heart disease. They also found that non-coeliacs that avoid gluten also have a reduced intake of healthy whole grains, which in itself can lead to heart problems. So if you’re unaffected by Coeliac disease its best to stick to a healthy balanced diet.
If you have any concerns or would like more information, pop by and see me in clinic.
Take care and stay healthy
Dr Nora x
For more information on Coeliac Awareness Week Australia visit https://www.coeliac.org.au/CAW/